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2014 Women's Hockey East Championship Preview

Will the Eagles claim their second conference championship this weekend?

Boston College Athletics

As regular season champions for the first time, BC is the top seed in this weekend's Hockey East semifinals and finals played in Hyannis, MA. Let's take a look at what's ahead for the highly-favored Eagles.

Semifinal #1: Saturday, 1:30pm
Hyannis Youth and Community Center (Hyannis, Mass.)

No. 17 Vermont Catamounts (18-13-4, 13-7-1 HEA)
vs. No. 5 Boston College Eagles (26-5-3, 18-2-1 HEA)

It has been one of the best seasons in Vermont Catamounts history. Vermont hasn't had a winning season since 2001 -- they've had less than half as many wins as losses every single year since then -- and has been one of the absolute worst teams in the country since... well, almost forever. But give credit to Coach Crowley, who identified the Cats as one of the teams to keep an eye on this year. Turns out they were a halfway decent team and even earned home ice in the Hockey East quarterfinals.

Vermont is riding a pretty impressive 7 game winning streak and has won 9 of their last 10, no small feat when you consider that the 10 game stretch started with a sweep of then top 6 ranked Boston University. They've climbed all the way up to TUC status in the Pairwise.

Vermont has a national top 10 goaltender in Roxanne Douville, who was named to the All-Hockey East first team at last night's championship banquet, but she's not all BC has to worry about. The Cats also boast the #4 and #6 leading scorers in Hockey East in juniors Amanda Pelkey and Brittany Zuback.

They are 15th and 17th in team offense and team defense, respectively, out of 36, and 17th in the Pairwise. They are almost exactly described as "halfway" decent. Jerry York would trip over himself to call this team "just, really, just terrific."

The Eagles, on the other hand, have evolved from NCAA tournament bubble team to one of the very best programs in the country. They are 15-1-2 in their last 16 games, the only blemish being a total head-scratcher against UConn, one of the the most completely mind-blowing losses in recent memory. Top scorer Haley Skarupa is 7-4--11 in her last 5 games and appears to be back to full strength after missing 4 games to injury in January.

But the most important factor in BC's success has been the evolution of the lock-down defense and redshirt senior goaltender Corinne Boyles. Boyles has climbed up to 4th in the country in save percentage, which seems impossible considering she was in the bottom half of the country as recently as halfway through the season.

BC seems to be really clicking on all cylinders -- the offense is playing well, the defense is playing well, the goaltending has been spectacular, and even the power play and penalty kill are both tops in Hockey East. It's hard to imagine BC not taking the conference title in what has been a real down hear for Hockey East.

Prediction: Boston College 5, Vermont 1

Semifinal #2: Saturday, 4:30pm
Hyannis Youth and Community Center (Hyannis, Mass.)

No. 14 Northeastern Huskies (19-13-2, 13-6-2 HEA)
vs. No. 11 Boston University Terriers (22-12-1, 14-7-0 HEA)

Early in the season this would have seemed like a one-sided matchup with BU shooting out of a cannon, starting off with records of 10-1-1 & 15-3-1, and Northeastern mired down in the bottom half of the conference with a disappointing 7-12-2. Since then, the teams have both pulled an about face. BU is 7-9-0 in their last 16, falling completely out of the national tournament picture, and the Huskies going on an absolute tear at 12-1-0 in their last 13. The two teams' seasons have both been pretty remarkable.

BU and Northeastern are both built pretty differently. The Terriers are offense-first, rocking the nation's 6th best O but 19th best D -- in the bottom half of the country. Northeastern is more well-rounded, with the 13th and 14th ranked O and D, respectively.

It's hard not to predict a Northeastern win in this game given the two teams' relative trajectories. The loser has their season end. I think this is the end of the line for the Terriers.

Prediction: Northeastern 4, Boston University 3.

The finals are Sunday afternoon at 1:30pm in Hyannis -- but will be shown on tape delay on NESN at 8pm , which is pretty exciting. We'll have all your tournament coverage right here, along with tomorrow's NCAA tournament selection show at 6pm. Here's hoping BC is able to add to a rapidly-filling hockey trophy case tomorrow with their second conference title.